Like the Renaissance, the Reformation drew its inspiration from the ancient world.† Renaissance humanists and artists sought to imitate and revive classical art and literary forms; Reformation thinkers aspired to restore the spiritual purity of early Christianity, before the growth of a powerful clergy and a dogmatic theology.† They used the Gospels in order to undermine the authority of the Church.† Yet, in several important ways, the Reformation also contributed to the shaping of modernity:
1. By dividing Christendom into Catholic and
Protestant, the Reformation destroyed the religious unity of
2. By strengthening monarchs at the expense of church bodies, the Reformation furthered the growth of the modern secular and centralized state.
3. While absolute monarchy was the immediate beneficiary of the Reformation, indirectly Protestantism contributed to the growth of political liberty Ė another feature of the modern West.† Protestantism accomplished this by providing religious justification for revolution against tyrannical rule.
4. The Reformation advanced the idea of equality.† For instance, M. Luther held that there was no spiritual distinction between the laity and clergy.† There was a spiritual equality of all believers:† all were equally Christian; all were equally priests (the priesthood of believers)
5. The Reformation contributed to the creation of an individualistic ethic.† Protestants insisted on the individualís rights and responsibilities to interpret Scripture according to the dictates of his or her conscience.† Piety, therefore, was not determined by the Church, but by the autonomous individual, whose conscience, illuminated by God, was the source of judgment and authority.
6. The Reformationís stress on individual conscience may have contributed to the development of the capitalist spirit, which underlies modern economic life.